Dryer capacities keep growing to keep up with the ever-increasing capacities of washing machines. New features keep being added, but a moisture sensor remains the most important. It automatically stops the dryer when the laundry is dry.
How to choose
Our years of testing show that gas and electric dryers perform comparably. Gas dryers cost about $50 to $150 more than comparable electric models, but the likely savings in fuel costs should more than make up the difference in the long run. An electric dryer requires a 240-volt outlet, a gas dryer needs a gas hookup and a 120-volt outlet. (Note: Consumer Reports now tests only electric dryers, which account for about 80 percent of the models sold, but equivalent gas models are listed in the Ratings, which are available to subscribers.)
Start with a moisture sensor
Our tests have found that dryers with a moisture sensor tend to recognize when laundry is dry more quickly than dryers that use a traditional thermostat. Because they don't subject clothing to unnecessary heat, moisture-sensor dryers are easier on fabrics. And since they shut themselves off when laundry is dry they use less energy. Sensors are now offered on many dryers, even lower priced models. Thermostat-only dryers are generally the most basic models. Our Ratings indicated which dryers have moisture sensors and other features.
Dryer capacities keep increasing to keep up with larger washer capacities. Manufacturers describe dryer capacity with terms such as extra large, super, and super plus. Most full-sized dryers can hold a typical wash load. If you want to dry big, bulky items, choose a model judged very good or excellent for capacity in our Ratings. Keep in mind that dryers with sensors are designed to handle full loads. When you toss in just a few items the dryer might shut off before your clothes are dry because the items didn't touch the sensor frequently enough. In that case use a timed cycle for drying small loads.
Focus on the features you need
Higher-priced dryers might offer a dozen or more features, including specialty cycles such as "speed dry" (15 minutes of high heat, for example). These can usually be replicated with standard settings. A choice of heat level, timed and auto-dry, and a few fabric types (regular/cotton and permanent press/delicate) is usually plenty for most households. Touchpads look impressive and might allow you to save custom settings but don't improve performance. Nor do stainless-steel tubs (unlike washers where they can make a difference).
If your dryer will be near the family room or bedrooms, look for a model judged very good or excellent for noise. You'll know they're working but they shouldn't disturb you. Dryers that scored good or lower make sustained sounds that can be annoying. Also pick a dryer that lets you silence the end-of-cycle signal. We note features in our Ratings.
For more information on dryers and washers, see the following